Picking up right where we left off, the circle clashes over what to do about Tepet Exquisite Tide.
“I wish I could tell you which one of you was right: I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.”
Returning right at the moment of decision, the Circle attempts to bind Tide to her word: “I will not take another life unless it would mean my own.” Instead of answering, Tide breaks down and asks for help retrieving something from her pocket: it turns out she is addicted to the same red crystal that Jorek received from the apothecary, and it is fracturing her mind, making it unclear how many of her decisions were made rationally. With this discovery, Valeria comes to a new agreement in order to save Three-Fates Shadow: Tide will agree to be the Solars’ prisoner for one week, during which time she will not try to escape. In exchange, Val will prevent Rey from trying to kill her for that same week. The oath is sanctified, and Tide leads them back to a home where, after sending away three of her “associates”, Three-Fates Shadow is discovered chained in a vat of freezing cold water, barely alive. Rey breaks her out and the group departs, but not before Jorek finds and pockets a seal of House Tepet.
Since Tide cannot be brought back to the manse, Jorek agrees to leave her at his apartment in Blue Sky under house arrest, and so three Solar Exalts, three Dragon-Blooded, one very damaged Abyssal Exalted, and one Solar corpse venture out together. En route, the party comes across Entropy, who admits to keeping tabs on the group: Jorek is not impressed, mocking him for thinking Nexus is “his city”, while Entropy compliments Val on having broken a promise as asked… perhaps he could be an ally after all?
On their way to Blue Sky, Rey drops by the arena and meets with Kanna and the assembled Golden Tigers (including Jakey, the Guild’s ex-stable hand). She asserts herself as their leader and gives them tasks: keep watch over Tide, keep their eyes and ears open for the Solars’ interests in Nexus, and guard Val whenever she makes a speech in public. Rey also promises to personally train anyone who faces her in the ring.
Before entering Blue Sky, Valeria and Jorek discreetly decide to try to wean Tide off the drug to which she is addicted. Val heads to the same apothecary that sold Jorek some in the first place, and not only purchases a facsimile of the crystal, but also manages to use her considerable force of personality to convince him to stop dealing in drugs entirely and switch over to healing medicines. Back at Blue Sky, Tide seems incredibly addled, demanding more and more to drink while trying to remember who she had been hurting over the past few days. She tells Jorek a story of a young boy stolen away by Anathema and then rescued, and how she fell in love with that boy; Val and Jorek put her to bed, trusting that she won’t try to escape, and they decide that they will attempt to help her and bring her over to their side.
In the cart, Rey makes it clear to Ember how concerned she was for his life in the fight against Tide, and how she physically felt his pain in the moment when he was attacked. The two proceed to be rather…affectionate with each other, despite being in front of Summer Blaze and Valeria. Jorek, meanwhile, is surprised by Starlight Dove, who presents him with a bow of hers made from a metal Jorek had never before seen: “there are some who are far gone who you will never be able to change except at the point of a sword or arrow”, she says, and “Heart’s String” is a gift to him for merely questioning this, as opposed to believing it fervently. Starlight Dove also confirms that the child referred to by Exquisite Tide, stolen away by Anathema, is indeed Ember.
Having found a place for Tide, Rey turns her attention to Three-Fates Shadow: if she is indeed returning with them to the Manse, she must not be allowed to harm her father. Three-Fates tells the group that she swore an oath to end the lives of those who asked, and so the compromise they come to (sanctified by Jorek) is that Three-Fates will not kill Rey’s father unless asked, and that she never be alone with him. Valeria also takes a moment to commit the body of Pearl, who died fighting for the Unconquered Sun (if not in a way the Solars liked): she discovers that he believed that meek should inherit Creation, himself being the meekest of all, and that he trusted Entropy.
When trying to leave Nexus, though, it is discovered that the city has been placed under quarantine by Two Legions (roughly 10,000 soldiers) stationed outside, although the Exalts realize that there is no way for word of the disease to have reached the Blessed Isle quickly enough to have brought so many troops to their door. Needing a plan, they decide to head down into the sewers beneath Nexus to try to sneak back to the manse unseen. Along the way, Jakey appears and offers to go back and watch for trouble at the Manse until the Circle can arrive, revealing himself to be Speaks-of-Silence. In the tunnels beneath Nexus, when Klem appears to demand what they’re doing, Jorek convinces her to “give them a ride” out to their Manse and back by seducing her.
Everything seems to be in order at the Manse, giving the Circle a chance to take a breath and rest before putting a plan in motion to deal with the disease, the Legions, and Tide.
That night, Exquisite Tide has a visitor as she sleeps: Starlight Dove, the chosen of Serenity, who watches her, trying to decipher her place in the loom of fate….